A sheriff’s deputy shot an out-of-control youth four times in the stomach Sunday night after the 16-year-old threw several knives, including one that embedded in the deputy’s thigh, police said.
The boy was reported to be alert and stable Monday after undergoing three hours of surgery on his lower abdomen at St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo.
Sgt. Ray Nagel received a four-inch-deep knife wound to his left thigh. He underwent minor surgery at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks to remove two inches of the knife blade that had broken off, and is now recovering at home.
The confrontation on Barbara Drive in a rural residential community just east of Camarillo began when the boy’s mother accused him of stealing family property and running up an $850 phone bill, police said.
The boy went berserk and threatened family members with a knife, police said. The boy himself called 911 and then handed the phone to his mother.
Investigators said they were unsure whether the boy was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or whether his frenzy could have been induced by mental instability.
“He has been treated for a mental disorder in the past,” said Lt. Larry Robertson, who is in charge of the investigation.
Nagel, a 17-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, was the first officer to arrive at the scene just after 10 p.m. and was asked by the mother to revoke her child’s probation. The boy, meanwhile, was out destroying mailboxes in the nearby residential area just east of Camarillo city limits, investigators said.
The teen-ager returned, began arguing with his stepfather and then threw a metal rod and a knife at the stepfather and Nagel, according to police.
Police gave this account of what happened next:
The boy armed himself with another knife and approached Nagel, who attempted to calm him. When the boy refused to drop the weapon, Nagel twice squirted him with pepper spray.
The spray didn’t faze the boy, who threw another knife at Nagel.
The boy then ran into the kitchen to fetch more knives. He hurled another knife, a piece of which embedded in Nagel’s thigh and later was removed in surgery.
Nagel shot the boy twice when he raised another knife above his head as if to throw it. When the boy raised the knife again, Nagel shot him two more times. Nagel hobbled over and handcuffed the boy and then began administering first aid until ambulances and other officers arrived.
Police officials said the shooting of a juvenile by a deputy may be unprecedented.
“I can’t even remember the last time it happened, if at all,” said Robertson, who has served 28 years in the Sheriff’s Department. “It’s extremely rare.”
But officials insisted Nagel had little choice in the matter.
“Officer Nagel did everything humanly possible to defuse the situation before the shooting occurred,” sheriff’s spokesman Bruce Hansen said. “The use of his firearm truly was a last resort. The kid was totally out of control and throwing knives.”
The shooting will be investigated independently by detectives and internal affairs.
Members of the boy’s family, contacted at their Barbara Drive home, refused to comment.
Hansen said the boy’s relatives expressed no anger at police for the shooting.
“His mother understood there was little else the officer could do,” Hansen said. “She was there the whole time and does not fault the officer.”
Neighbors said they were shocked by all the commotion in their quiet neighborhood.
“When I heard the gunshots, I thought someone was shooting coyotes,” Rosie Johnson said. “But then all the police cars sped by so quickly, which is so unusual here. We never get any traffic.”
The boy, who is still recovering at the hospital under the watch of sheriff’s deputies, is expected to be charged with attempted homicide on a peace officer and assault with a deadly weapon, police said.